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The US-based EV manufacturer posted a statement this week that it will be getting rid of radar technology in all its driving assisted features, including Autopilot. The Model 3 and Model Y vehicles being produced in Canada and the US are going to have camera-based systems to manage Autopilot’s features like cruise control in traffic and automatic lane management.
Radar sensors are not cheap and they use considerable computing power to process data. Tesla has said in the past that “a vision-only system is ultimately all that is needed for full autonomy”. The EV then set plans in motion to modify its technology to Tesla Vision. Tesla’s Technoking, Elon Musk confirmed this via Twitter when he said the company is moving to a “pure vision” system.
The Model 3 and Model Y going into production will be the first Teslas to use camera sight and neural net processing to provide Autopilot, Full-Self Driving, and other active safety features. The EV company has also advised that its driving assistance functions are not going to be as reliable or technically solid while it goes through a period of adjustments.
“For a short period during this transition, cars with Tesla Vision may be delivered with some features temporarily limited or inactive, including: Autosteer will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 mph and a longer minimum following distance. Smart Summon (if equipped) and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance may be disabled at delivery.”
Those customers who ordered their Model 3 and Model Y vehicles prior to this announcement will be officially informed before accepting delivering of their new EVs.
Autopilot allows the car to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane” and with the development of FSD, additional features include automatic lane changing and Smart Summon. This feature lets the driver call their car from within a short distance using the Tesla app.
Even though Tesla stated in the owner’s manual and its website that driving assisted features must be actively supervised, some Tesla owners have behaved irresponsibly, pushing the idea of driving-assisted to full autonomous driving. In some of these cases, it did not end well for the drivers where it resulted in a fatal collision or being arrested for unsafe driving antics.
Other EV automakers have taken a different approach when it comes to ‘automated’ driving capabilities. GM Cruise and Waymo are just some examples of carmakers using radar and lidar in combination with cameras in their driving assistance systems.
Cameras record videos that are interpreted by machine-learning software while radar and lidar sensors process additional data for cars to detect and evade obstacles. Musk has never been a supporter of lidar technology but he hasn’t completely dismissed the use of radar. Tesla plans to retain radar systems in the higher-end Model S and Model X vehicles, as well as the Model 3 and Model Y EVs manufactured in China or those vehicles assigned for international markets.
The CTO of Edge Case Research, Phil Koopman who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering says Tesla will be able to manage with a camera only system but he believes radar is still needed for advanced automated features:
Image source: ResearchGate
“The sensors used by an SAE Level 2 (human driver responsible for monitoring safety at all times) is at manufacturer discretion. So, it’s possible they can provide at least some features with camera only, noting that the human is responsible for handling anything the camera can’t. Tesla’s features are currently limited to this SAE Level 2. If in the future Tesla wants to achieve SAE Level 4 (automated vehicle with no human driver safety supervision — which is not the current capability), then it would be prudent to use every type of sensor they can get, including cameras, radar, lidar, and possibly others.”
Musk seems to have a different school of thought. And together with his innovative engineering team, they have formulated their own plans on how to take Tesla Vision forward in the future.